The benefits of physical exercise on health are numerous and most are well known. Scotland has long had the tag of ‘the sick man of Europe’. But is this still the case? While there is always room for improvement, and any improvement in health must be welcomed, are we on the right path?

The following information has been taken from The Scottish Health Survey;

Likelihood to exercise: Men 69%, Women 59%, Boys 79% and Girls 72%. There are a considerable number of us not managing the recommended levels of exercise regularly. To change this it is important to implement physical activity into routines from an early age. It also highlighted the need for more sporting opportunities for girls, something that is actively being addressed by Sport Scotland, the SFA and other groups.

Nutrition: When it comes to fruit & veg our nation is sorely lacking. With the recommended amount being 5 portions a day, we average only 3.3: Men 2.8, women 3.2 (both down from the previous year). In terms of the numbers of people eating 5 portions a day: Men 17%, Women 22%, Boys 11%, Girls 15%. This is concerning especially with the important nutrients these food groups provide, for these to be missing from our diet has a very real impact on our physical development and health.

Weight/Obesity: Men are more likely to be overweight than women (68% to 61%), 29% of children (aged 2 to 15) were not of a healthy weight, however obesity (beyond overweight) levels are lowest in the 16-24 age group at 14% – but this doubles to 28% in the 25-35% – the largest jump across age groups. This suggests a lack of both physical activity routine and healthy eating.

Health Conditions: In those aged 16 or over 15% had some form of cardiovascular disease and 5% had diabetes (1 in 20 people)

The survey questioned 4323 adults and 1561 children.

The biggest steps we can take to improve these figures for future are;

Help ensure our children and young people take part in more physical activity. Are they members of sports clubs? Are they confident in their physical abilities? Do they spend too long in front of a tv/computer? Even walking more regularly has good benefits. Have you checked what sports clubs there are in your local area? There are usually quite a few, though they are not often advertised or praised for the work they do enough.

Fruit & Veg. As the survey suggests – we sorely lack the vital nutrients these food groups provide. If you run or help out with a sports club (especially one for young people) try to provide half time oranges, post match bananas, or any fruit or veg snacks you can for training sessions etc. Every little helps, especially for active youngsters. Even try contacting your local supermarket or MacDonald’s franchisee – a lot of whom have policies for giving back to the local populations, and can be happy to support health and sport.

Work to overcome old biases… More and more girls are participating in sport than they were before but there is still a gap. If you run a team, have you considered a girls team? I attended The SFA grassroots awards recently and a large focus of the evening was the increase in girls’ football, the coaches that spoke of starting theirs up did so in glowing terms and certainly felt it was very worthwhile.

Here’s to getting more people active and healthier. Getting more children involved and improving our nation’s health.